Walking down the road Mahatma Gandhi travelled (Lead, Letter from Shimla)

July 7th, 2008 - 3:06 pm ICT by IANS  

By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, July 7 (IANS) The historic trail left by behind by Mahatma Gandhi, who visited this summer capital of the British several times in the days leading up to India’s independence, is now being tracked. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Bapu’s grandson who is the present governor of West Bengal, is leading an exercise to make a chronological list of the places that his illustrious grandfather visited in hilly Shimla, now the capital of Himachal Pradesh.

The union culture ministry has constituted a sub-group to draft recommendations on the upkeep, maintenance, conservation and development of sites associated with Bapu. Gopalkrishna Gandhi is chairman of the sub-group.

He has requested the Himachal directorate of language and culture to provide inputs on the venues that Mahatma Gandhi had visited to meet British rulers as well as freedom fighters. Gandhi told IANS that his grandfather visited Shimla at least 11 times between 1921 and 1946.

Accompanied by Madan Mohan Malaviya and Lala Lajpat Rai, Mahatma Gandhi first reached Shimla May 12, 1921 to meet the then viceroy, Lord Reading. He stayed at Shanti Kuti in Chakkar area. It is currently used as a residential complex.

He visited the residence of James Crerar May 13, 1931 to meet the then home secretary, H.W. Emerson. Ava Lodge, as the place is known, is currently in the possession of the Himachal Pradesh University.

During that visit, he stayed in Firgrove, the bungalow of Lala Mohanlal in the Jakhu area. This bungalow is currently occupied by a New Delhi resident and known as ‘Firgrove Bhawan’.

On May 14 and 15, he addressed a number of meetings at the Arya Samaj Mandir and Idgah.

On July 15, 1931, he again came here to meet the then viceroy, Lord Willington, at the Viceregal Lodge that now houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies in an area of 123 acres. He again stayed in Firgrove.

Accompanied by Vallabhbhai Patel, Prabhashankar Pattani, M.A. Ansari and Jawaharlal Nehru, Bapu reached Shimla Aug 25, 1931 to meet Emerson. They stayed at Carton Grove, near the Vidhan Sabha. This building was destroyed in a fire but subsequently reconstructed.

From Sep 4 to 5, 1939, Bapu visited Manorville, the residence of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur at Summer Hill. There he spent most of his time reciting bhajans. He also visited this house in 1940, 1945 and 1946.

At present, this house is registered in the name of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.

On Sep 27, 1940, Mahatma Gandhi stayed with the eldest brother of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Raja Raghubir Singh, at the Chadwick bungalow. He was here to meet the viceroy.

The bungalow belonged to the erstwhile Maharaja of Kapurthala. The monitoring cell of All India Radio also functioned from there.

Similarly, the Kalka-Shimla rail section has historical importance. Mahatma Gandhi travelled on this section along with Madan Mohan Malaviya and Lala Lajpat Rai May 12, 1921.

Meanwhile, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage has prepared a list of 327 heritage structures in Shimla and requested the Himachal government to declare them heritage monuments.

“Most of these buildings are in need of preservation and restoration,” says Prem Parshad Pandit, in charge of the Himachal directorate of language and culture.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at gulatiians@gmail.com)

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